The following was written by World Relief Seattle staff member, Liz Andes.
I want to introduce you to my friend, Mohammed. He is 11 years old and from central Iraq. Mohammed came to the U.S. in April 2014 with his father and they are now living in Kent. Like other boys his age, he loves helicopters, computer games, and playing with his dad.
Mohammed’s parents made the difficult decision for Mohammed and his father to come to the U.S., leaving behind his mother and three sisters, in hopes of getting Mohammed the urgent medical attention he needs.
I’ll spare you all the specific medical details, but the main point is when Mohammed was born he lived his first five minutes of life without oxygen. This damaged his brain and affected many other parts of his body.
I had the great joy of attending Mohammed’s first appointment at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he met with the occupational and physical therapy departments to see if Mohammed might be able to walk normally in future. The physical therapy room looks very similar to a playground, with bright colored rubber balls, jump ropes, and other toys. Mohammed was elated.
The doctor recommended that Mohammed get a special walker called a “posterior gait monitor.” As Mohammed tried the walker on the tiled hallway, he shrieked with joy and raced the doctor, his father, and me in turn. It was a truly beautiful moment, seeing what Mohammed’s body was capable of when given the proper tools.
As we walked out of the hospital, I remembered a generous birthday gift I had just received. It all made sense. This act of generosity could be multiplied and used to help a family who had sacrificed their home, safety, and family ties to seek a better life for their son. I decided to use the gift, along with funds from my community, to get Mohammed the walker.
As I began to share Mohammed’s story, friends, family, and my church community, donations soon poured in. Within a month, the walker had been purchased!
Just last week I took the walker (in “sparkle green” as Mohammed requested) to the family’s apartment. The three of us celebrated together with chocolate milk and smiles all around as Mohammed went for a spin.
I wish you could all meet Mohammed. His smiles are infectious and his laughter breaks through all cultural and linguistic barriers. But, perhaps even more, I wish you could meet his father. Seeing the love between father and son has brought me to tears more than once. Gheyath’s entire life revolves around caring for Mohammed’s physical and emotional needs; this isn’t an easy lifestyle. And yet, Gheyath seems content. He laughs broadly, jokes constantly, and dotes upon Mohammed.
Gheyath misses his wife and his three daughters immensely and he cannot wait for the day when he can hold them again. But the sacrifice he has made is already paying off. Mohammed’s movement is improving, he is attending therapy weekly, and in just a few short weeks, Mohammed will go to school for the first time in his life. What an incredible milestone.
I am privileged every day to work with children who love life, who cannot WAIT to attend school for the very first time, who communicate with me through smiles and games when language is a barrier. I am privileged to work with mothers and fathers who risk EVERYTHING for their children and never look back.
Every day is a chance to love others well and to move forward. Mohammed and Gheyath do this every day.